Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Schadenfreude in the morning

I just found out that Alex Jones has lost his platforms on Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and Apple.  And although I fully support the right to free speech, my reaction was:

BA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA *gasp, pant, sputter* HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA *falls off chair*

The reason given is that he repeatedly broke their rules against hate speech and the incitement of violence.  The only thing surprising about this is how long it took them to act.  This is the man who claimed that the Sandy Hook massacre never occurred, that no children had been killed, and the parents were "crisis actors" hired by the Left to fake a mass murder.  The result was ongoing harassment of the grieving parents by idiots who believe everything that Jones says.  He said the same thing about the Parkland/Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, adding there that the teenage survivors were being paid by Democrats to agitate against the NRA -- because clearly, articulate and intelligent young people are not able to form opinions of their own without being bought off by cynical politicians.

Jones, who has run InfoWars for many years, has spouted this kind of bullshit for as long as I can remember.  (Check out RationalWiki if you'd like to see a concise list of the insane ideas he's touted on his show.)  People call him a "Right-wing conspiracy theorist," which is an all-too-kind euphemism for "liar."  I'm fully convinced Jones knows exactly what he's doing; he whips up controversy because it gets viewers, gets clicks on his website, gets customers to buy his "male-enhancement" pills (no, I'm not making this up).  If there was any doubt about the fact that he's a con man and not a true believer, it was removed when Jones's lawyer, during the custody trial between Jones and his ex-wife, said Jones was "a performance artist playing a character."  In one of the many lawsuits Jones has faced, the defense attorney said, "No reasonable person would believe what Jones says" -- implying that if people are hoodwinked, it's their own fault.

Maybe.  I am neither qualified, nor interested, in debating the finer points of law surrounding culpability.  All I can say is that giving Alex Jones fewer platforms for spreading his sewage is unequivocally a good thing.  And I'm happy to say that Jones himself is taking it in his usual measured, dignified, thoughtful fashion.  I saw a YouTube clip showing his reaction when he heard the news, and because he also lost his YouTube channel *brief pause to stop guffawing again* I can't post a link to it, so here's the next closest thing.

I think we can all agree that we want Alex to know we're sending him our thoughts and prayers.

I'm not expecting his banishment to have much effect on the fans of InfoWars, or at least not right away.  After all, his claim (and the claims of his lawyers) that he was an actor -- i.e., he didn't actually believe everything he was saying -- hardly made a dent.  But given that these people have the attention span of a gnat -- and, apparently, the IQ of one as well -- it shouldn't take long for them to forget all about Jones and tune into some other conspiracy-touting nutjob.  Maybe Sean Hannity.  Or Ann Coulter.  (She's still around, isn't she?  I keep waiting for someone to dump a bucket of water on her and make her melt.)

But a tremendous amount of the toxic garbage making its way into the narrative of the extreme Right can be traced back to Jones, and if this really is sayonara, I'm glad to see him go.  Notwithstanding that he has been a fertile source of topics for Skeptophilia -- I've lost track of the number of times he's appeared here -- anything we can do to reduce the pollution stream is a good thing.

So there's a little tasty schadenfreude to go with your morning coffee.  Given how desperate I've been for good news, it's nice to be able to pass along some.  I don't really think this means Alex Jones will shut up -- nothing could accomplish that -- but at least it may mean that fewer people will be listening.


This week's book recommendation is especially for people who are fond of historical whodunnits; The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson.  It chronicles the attempts by Dr. John Snow to find the cause of, and stop, the horrifying cholera epidemic in London in 1854.

London of the mid-nineteenth century was an awful place.  It was filled with crashing poverty, and the lack of any kind of sanitation made it reeking, filthy, and disease-ridden.  Then, in the summer of 1854, people in the Broad Street area started coming down with the horrible intestinal disease cholera (if you don't know what cholera does to you, think of a bout of stomach flu bad enough to dehydrate you to death in 24 hours).  And one man thought he knew what was causing it -- and how to put an end to it.

How he did this is nothing short of fascinating, and the way he worked through to a solution a triumph of logic and rationality.  It's a brilliant read for anyone interested in history, medicine, or epidemiology -- or who just want to learn a little bit more about how people lived back in the day.

[If you purchase the book from Amazon using the image/link below, part of the proceeds goes to supporting Skeptophilia!]

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